Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has attended a university graduation ceremony in his first public appearance since an apparent military takeover.
The 93-year-old arrived at Harare’s Open University in the capital, joining the crowd in singing the national anthem and announcing the opening of the ceremony.
Zimbabwe’s military said on Friday that it was making “significant progress” in talks with Mr Mugabe for his departure, while it also pursues and arrests some allies of the leader and his deeply unpopular wife, Grace Mugabe.
The army says it acted on Tuesday to “calm tensions”, taking control of the capital and placing the president and his wife under house arrest.
It followed the sacking of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mr Mugabe accused of plotting to take power. The move made his wife heir apparent and came after months of in-fighting in Mr Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.
In a statement reported by the state-run Herald newspaper and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation on Friday, the military said it was “currently engaging with the Commander-in-Chief President Robert Mugabe on the way forward and will advise the nation of the outcome as soon as possible”.
“Significant progress has been made in their operation to weed out criminals around President Mugabe,” the army said, adding that the military had already arrested some, although others who had been “committing crimes that were causing social and economic suffering in Zimbabwe” remained at large.
The military is keen to avoid impressions that a coup has taken place, as other African countries would take a dim view of such a move.
The ongoing negotiations appear to be trying to get Mr Mugabe to agree to hand over to a new government, but difficulties could include the timing. The ruling party is set to meet next month and Mr Mugabe’s term ends next year.
Morgan Tsvangirai, one of Mr Mugabe’s biggest rivals and the opposition leader who was his deputy between 2009 and 2013, called for him to resign immediately and for their to be “free, fair and credible” elections, with a transitional authority put in place in the meantime.
Photographs were published on Thursday of Mr Mugabe meeting army commander Constantino Chiwenga at the state house, alongside a South African delegation.
Army troops and armored vehicles continued to patrol the capital on Friday as Zimbabweans went about their daily business.
Residents said they had feared at first when the military moved in but praised the current calm.